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Punxsutawny Phil 2.0

Kurt Newton's short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales, Space & Time, Weirdbook, The Arcanist, and Black Infinity. This is his third appearance in Daily Science Fiction.

Yup, it's Groundhog Day here once again at East Coast Sector 3 Shelter H, and we're gearing up for our annual Groundhog Day extravaganza. The Mayor of Pittsburgh is here, and his beautiful family, along with a host of wealthy dignitaries from the business community and sports and entertainment fields who were lucky enough to secure a spot in our lovely underground facility.
I'm your emcee, William "Bucky" Halverson. Can everyone hear me?
As you all know, it's been a trying year with all the austerity measures put in place, but there's always one thing we can count on, isn't that right, folks? Inside this box here... straight from the cloning lab... descended from a long line of furry prognosticators... our most beloved bellwether... Marmota monax... Better known as Punxsutawny Phil!
So, without further ado... let us begin the countdown!
And there he goes! Scampering up the rabbit hole! Boy, can that little fella move.
As you can see on the jumbotron behind me, our courageous critter is equipped with a series of monitoring devices that are transmitting a constant stream of information. This year the live video feed is taken by a tiny camera mounted on top of Punxsutawny Phil's head.
Okay, he's reached the top. That didn't take long. He's peering out. He's hesitating. The tube has been sealed shut behind him, so there's no turning back, now.
And he's off, into the snow. Let's see how far he gets.
The snow appears to be not as deep as last year. Look at him plow right through it. He's like a little kid playing in the yard on a snow day home from school.
I see the sky is still overcast, and still carrying that ominous reddish hue. But would you look at those ice sculptures. It always amazes me what nature can do.
He's lasted nearly a minute, now. Isn't this exciting folks?
Body temperature: ninety-eight degrees. Heart-rate: eighty beats per minute. Perfectly normal. Fingers crossed.
Two minutes! What a trooper.
How far can he go?
He's almost reached what used to be the old courthouse steps.
Wait, he appears to be slowing down. Heart-rate dropping. Body temperature rising. He's circling back. Wait, no, he's...
Heart-rate falling. Body temperature critical.
Two minutes, forty-nine seconds!
Ladies and gentlemen, you know what that means... only six more years of nuclear winter!
Let's hear it for Punxsutawny Phil!
Now, if everyone will move to the cafeteria... a veritable feast of protein wafers and sparkling water awaits us.
Till next year!
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020

Author Comments

I was driving to work on Groundhog Day, listening to a spot piece on the radio broadcast live from Punxsutawny, PA, and I thought how odd that such an arcane ritual exists in this day and age of AI technology and computer models. And then I thought, wouldn't it be odder still (and funny) if this ritual were extrapolated to a near-future apocalyptic setting? Such is my sense of humor. Anyway, with tongue in cheek, the story pretty much wrote itself.

- Kurt Newton
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